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On the Poetry of Ally Sheedy

By Harriet Staff

Over at The Awl, Maria Bustillos wrote this post about Ally Sheedy’s life as a writer, focusing first on her books of poems, Yesterday I Saw the Sun, and then on a “novel” she wrote when she was twelve.

To start the poetry portion of the show, Bustillos reaches out to poet Jim Berhle:

Before we launch into the strange tale of Sheedy’s long history as an author, you may like to know something about this historic volume of poetry. Regrettably, I am a poetry idiot (preferring as I do Edward Lear to practically every poet except for Alexander Pope) and so I consulted the poet and essayist Jim Behrle for guidance on the true literary merits of Sheedy; I sent him the poem “New Jersey,” chosen at random from the subject volume, and asked his opinion. Here is how the poem opens:

New Jersey

Silver Lake
float away my dreams
slicing through your waters
in a conscious jet-ski stream
rolling toward your ocean
on the swells of movie themes
my mind has come apart
finding liberation in extremes

And it concludes thus:

Lost in the twilight somewhere in New Jersey
I dream new worlds to life inside
With the rise and fall of every breath
I feel much more
I fear much less
and late last night my old world died.

And I watched it go. And cried.

Behrle responded:

Many of my favorite poets are from New Jersey. Joe Ceravalo. Ginsberg. Jacqueline Waters. Snooki. So it doesn’t surprise me that Sheedy chooses the Garden State to speak to this particular emotion of being neither truly alive nor dead. Sheedy is the Wallace Stevens of celebrity poets. And just as I continue to wonder about the jar from Tennessee and what it’s supposed to mean I think I will wonder at the image of the jet ski all my days. That image will haunt me. With the path of froth that cuts across all dark souls. Many poets think they’re too clever or too cool to rhyme. Sheedy comes with no pretensions as is her way. “Liberation in extremes” obviously invokes Baudelaire. Even the sky is touchable and alive beneath her deft pen. In this poem we all get to feel “much more.”

This critique strikes me as simultaneously fair, generous and comically pleasurable, which must surely be the best way to read poetry. What should we expect of a young and famous actor who has just cracked up and landed in rehab? Something just like this. If it is hackneyed that is almost to be expected. If we follow Behrle’s lead and accept this work on its own merits and in a genial spirit, there’s surely more to be gained than by empty mockery, which, in any case, has already been done to death.

And then a bit on her “novel”:

Okay, but how did this kid aged twelve come to write this thing? Is she even really so driven, or is it the adults around her that are so driven? Who was really cooking up all this publicity? Are the adults making a novelty of this kid and if so, why?

And finally, the big question: was the book any good?

Well, no. It is fascinatingly terrible. She Was Nice To Mice is, among other things, a peeping-mouse erotic narrative, in which Queen Elizabeth I is depicted as a sex-crazed all-caps-screaming virago who also hides a herd of her mouse pals under her many skirts so that the ratcatcher won’t find them, including the narrator of the story, the queen’s special mouse friend, a distant ancestor of the Esther Long Whiskers Gray Hair Wallgate the 42nd with whom the book opens.

Make the jump for more. And see this post about more celebrity poetry.

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Posted in Poetry News on Tuesday, February 28th, 2012 by Harriet Staff.